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Individuality and the Reduction of Intellect to Reason

Pertinent Quotes

By OmarKN

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This is part of a series of texts which aim at informing the Muslims as well as non-Muslims about the roots of the deviance of materialistic societies in the West as well as in the East and the South.
This is out of concern for the condition of other Muslims according to the authentic Hadith:

”Whoever does not care for the affairs of the Muslims is not from among us.”[1]

The paragraphs are quotes and near-quotes from pages @ Living Islam - Islamic Tradition.

”In any case, what Westerners call civilization, the others would call barbarity, because it is precisely lacking in the essential, that is to say, a principle of a higher order.”
René Guénon, East And West, p.90

René Guénon, who is Shaykh Abd Al Wahid Yahya[2], produced already in the 1920ies an unsentimental analysis of Western ideological and religious ‘development’ since the Renaissance - which was a wrong track, focusing on the degradation of metaphysics, religion and philosophy and consequently of the mentality of the general populace. S H Nasr[3] and many others, such as Sh Hamza Yusuf[4] and Sh Abdal Hakim Murad[5] continued and updated this analysis.


Part of the development toward modernity was the idea of ‘individuality.’

Protestantism came up with the idea of anyone being able to interpret the scriptures solely on the exercise of human reason. This gave birth to the idea of an individual interpretation of the scriptures, and as such individualism became one of the determining causes of the present decadence of the West [and the East], because at the outset individualism refuses “to admit any authority higher than the individual and any faculty of knowledge superior to individual reason.”

If this sounds strange in our age and time, then this only shows how much individualism has become a second nature to our fellow-citizens, to follow one's own (one's ego) is the new normal.
Like: ’Who are you to tell me what to do?’

“The acceptance of individuality necessarily implies a refusal to admit any authority higher than the individual and any faculty of knowledge superior to individual reason.”
On the Crisis of the Modern World

"The enlightenment-humanist rejection of tradition and authority in favour of reason and natural science. This is founded upon the assumption of the autonomous individual as the sole source of meaning and truth - the Cartesian cogito. This is severely refuted by postmodernism.[n1]

A second trait of modernism closely related to anthropomorphism is the lack of principles in the metaphysical sense. Human nature is too unstable and turbulent be able to serve as metaphysical principle for anything. That is why a mode of thinking that is not able to transcend the human level and that remains anthropomorphic cannot but be devoid of principles understood metaphysically.
Modernism And Postmodern Thought

How Reason Became Isolated From the Transcendent Principles

We will mention that Descartes limited intelligence to reason, that he granted to what he thought might be called “metaphysic” the mere function of serving as a basis for physics, and that this physics itself was by its very nature destined, in his eyes, to pave the way for the applied sciences, mechanical, medicinal and moral, the final limit of human knowledge as he conceived it.
Some Quotes from René Guénon in “East and West”

So the higher levels of reality were eliminated from intellectual research and attention. This happened because reason and rationality were bit by bit isolated from their transcendent and immutable principles. This was a process over several centuries and this tendency became ever more prevalent since the French revolution of 1789 in Western, European thought and imagination.

From now on man himself became the centre point of existence and the ”modern” idea claimed that there was nothing higher than human reason and no object of science more dignified to receive scientific attention than what was possible to perceive empirically through the human senses. Typical for this was ‘positivism’.

Quite the opposite to postmodernism which rejects reason as a universal concept.[8]

Finally one more characteristic of modern thought is the loss of the sense of the sacred, which - among all of the symptoms of modern and postmodern thought - is its most devastating consequence. The reduction of intellect to reason and in postmodernism, the abolishment of any universal acceptable concept of reason(!) has made sacred knowledge inaccessible and to some even meaningless.
Modernism And Postmodern Thought

The Islamic Point of View

Regarding the intellect: Don’t reduce intellect[6] to analytical reason!

The story of Iblis’/ Satan’s rebellion and pride when he replaced intellect with ordinary logical reasoning in opposition to the divine imperative is a warning to everyone.
The intellect is a light which is meant to open up human understanding to the Divine truths and Lights from Heaven.
On the Crisis of the Modern World

The tragedy of modern Western philosophy lies, from the Muslim point of view, in confusing intellect and reason.
Intellect, Reason and Unity Of Being

There is of course the Divine imperative of using reason, but Islam has never forgotten the restrictions on human reason and has always deeply venerated the principles which transcend human thought. So reason - roughly corresponding to ´aql - was always open to higher levels of knowledge, i.e. sacred knowledge and Islamic metaphysics (al-´ilm ilāhiyyah ).
Modernism And Postmodern Thought

The Islamic Tradition

Hence tradition holds that the organ ”of knowledge is not the human mind but ultimately the Divine Intellect.” Therefore ”true science is not based on purely human reason but on the Intellect which belongs to the supra-human level of reality, yet illuminates the human mind.”

The Muslim intellectual saw revelation as the primary source of knowledge, not only as the means to learn the laws of morality concerned with the active life. He was also aware of the possibility of man purifying himself until the ‘eye of the heart’ (´ayn al-qalb ), residing at the centre of his being, would open and enable him to gain direct vision of the supernatural realities. Finally he accepted the power of reason to know, but this reason was always attached to and derived sustenance from revelation on the one hand, and intellectual intuition on the other.
Modernism And Postmodern Thought

The relationship between reason and revelation is that between a window and light. Revelation is light and reason (´aql ) is like a window in a house. The bigger and cleaner the window is the more light one will receive. If the window is small, dirty or obstructed naturally one will get very little benefit from the light of revelation.
Relationship between Reason and Revelation

Aim at the Highest

Hearts are potentially places of intellect or ’intellectual intuition’, which is an understanding or gnosis[7] (maghrifa مَعرفَت ) beyond the confines of reason and sentiment. Pure intellect (´aql ) transcends modern limited rationality while based on revelation (naql ).
MAIN > Chapter: True Happiness Can Be Found

It has been said with good reason, that those who do not aim at the highest, are likely to aim at the lowest. And Muslims say, that those who refuse to obey God, will inevitable end up by obeying the devil.
What Is Normal And What Normality?

Oriental Pattern

  1. Caring for a fellow believer, and the Ummah at large is a noble trait, a great Sunnah as well as the quality of the pious.
    The Hadith in question is reported by several Sahabah, among them Sayyiduna Anas, Sayyiduna Abu Dharr and Sayyiduna Hudhayfah (radiyallahu ‘anhum). Imam Bayhaqi (rahimahullah) and ‘Allamah ‘Iraqi (rahimahullah) have classified this Hadith as weak.
    From: Concern for the condition of other Muslims – Hadith Answers  ↩

  2. René Guénon - Shaykh `Abd Al Wahid Yahya  ↩

  3. Seyyed Hossein Nasr - Some Texts  ↩

  4. For example: Sh Hamza Yusuf: How Modern society is Affecting Believers in a Negative way  ↩

  5. For example: Abdal Hakim Murad: Are We Heading Towards Extinction?  ↩

  6. intellect: the faculty of reasoning and understanding objectively, especially with regard to abstract matters: he was a man of action rather than of intellect.
    intelligence: the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills: an eminent man of great intelligence.  ↩

  7. The term in Western philosophy, described here as:
    gnosis: knowledge of spiritual mysteries.
    However this term is not quite congruent with the Islamic concept of maʿrifa: ‘recognition’  ↩

  8. Postmodernism is more often characterized by its opposition to modernism with its ambivalence or rejection of the Enlightenment and its ideology. It thus derives from an anti-epistemological standpoint; anti-realism; opposition to transcendent arguments; rejection of truth theories; rejection of categorical analyses; a critique of reason itself as a positive guide for the life of humans.

    In the Post Modern view there are no absolutes of any kind and there are no universal truths nor universal criteria for beauty and nor are there universal principles of the GOOD.



Related texts
link-in Postmodernism And Modernity
link-in Relationship between Reason and Revelation, Hamid S. Aziz



* Living Islam – Islamic Tradition *